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Sunday, May 13, 2007

A follow up on Necessary Existence

Granting with Timothy Williamson that singular propositions of the form “a does not exist” cannot be true[1], is there really no other way to accommodate the intuition that there are things which do not necessarily exist? Perhaps we could cash out the intuition some individuals, such as myself, do not necessarily exist as follows:

“It is possibly the case that a, b, c…; a_1, b_1, c_1…; a_n, b_n, c_n… exist and there is no x such that x is not identical to a and x is not identical to b and x is not identical to c…” (where, a, b, c, (etc.) are constants denoting everything existent with the sole exception of me. )


If the foregoing is true then, while the proposition “Jason Zarri does not exist” cannot be true, it does not follow that I necessarily exist. For it seems perfectly possible that everything besides me could have existed while it was also the case that these things were the only things which existed. It is not necessary for this to be the case that there exist some proposition which truly asserts my nonexistence. If a given possible world does not contain me, it fails to contain the proposition that I exist as well as the proposition that I do not exist, so Williams’ argument cannot go through. Though it is not possible that I lack existence, it is still true that there are possible worlds which do not contain me.


[1] In case you missed my last post, Williamson’s paper “Necessary Existents” can be found here: <http://www.philosophy.ox.ac.uk/members/twilliamson/index.htm>

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